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Federer kicks off 2020 season with ease

  • David Cox

Roger Federer made light work of Steve Johnson, the six-time champion kicking off his 22nd consecutive Australian Open campaign with a near effortless 6-3 6-2 6-2 victory.

Having opted to skip the ATP Cup earlier this month, the 38-year-old Federer had sounded wary of the threat posed by the big serving Johnson in his pre-tournament press conference. Indeed, the American had every reason to feel confident after winning a challenger title in Bendigo last month.

MORE: AO2020 men’s draw

However under the bright lights of Rod Laver Arena, Federer proved to be too much of a step up in class. With matches suspended on the outside courts as storm clouds circled ominously around Melbourne Park, fans inside and outside the stadium gathered to watch yet another masterclass from this most popular of champions.

Federer was sharp from the off, ripping a forehand winner to break the American to 15 in his opening service game, and seemed utterly untroubled by anything the world No.75 had to offer.

The first set was over in barely half an hour, and when the Swiss reeled off five games in a row to take a 4-0 second set lead, the match was effectively over as a contest, and Federer duly wrapped up victory in an hour and 21 minutes as a Johnson backhand drifted long.

There will be tougher tests to come, not least the prospect of a last sixteen clash with US Open conqueror Grigor Dimitrov, but for now, Federer was satisfied with a straightforward day’s work, given his lack of matches coming into the tournament.

"I haven't played proper matches in many, many weeks, and probably 95 per cent of the guys are coming here with matches," he said. 

"I think for me really, the first three rounds are key to get going, to get used to the pressure, stay calm, when to save break point or 30-30 points or whatever it may be or just to stay calm if you're down a set and a break. This is the unknown that can be a little bit scary at times. But today there was none of that because I broke early each set and was able to get on a roll, play freely after that. And also felt I had margin. Anything I was doing, I felt like I had the game under control."

Afterwards, the No.3 seed took the time to reflect on some of his early Australian Open campaigns, including his debut main draw appearance back in 2000, in which he beat Michael Chang - the 1996 Australian Open runner-up who was in Johnson’s corner today.

“I remember coming here for the juniors in 1998,” remembered Federer. 

“I lost in the semis and then played qualies the following year, lost first round, and then came back in 2000. I beat Michael Chang and now he’s coaching against me. That was a great experience, playing on a big court. And then I think I ended up playing third or fourth round, losing to Arnaud Clement. I was happy, it was a good tournament.”